A guest lecture by Professor Clark Gibson of the University of California San Diego.
Abstract: Millions of South Africans have protested the poor quality of public services. While the country’s mayors plead a lack of resources, wide variations in services exist between municipalities – even between those with similar economic conditions. Current studies often assume ethnic heterogeneity somehow impedes the cooperation needed to deliver services, but offer no account of politics. We argue South African mayors distribute services to win elections, and consider their political assets – their margin of victory in the last election, ethnic group membership, and partisanship of their municipal council – as well as the characteristics of the groups in their constituency – size, ethnicity, and wealth -- when choosing to invest (or not) in their municipality’s trash, water, and sanitation services. We test our ideas using census, electoral, and original data from all of South Africa’s 234 municipalities. While we find a link between ethnicity and service provision, the connection is highly conditioned by factors important to winning elections and more complex than conventional wisdom asserts.